Louis Boudreault`s art presents the imagery of the 20th century, more specifically portraits of the famous and infamous. He does so in a presentational, very Pop, even conceptual manner. While the sources for his art are the imagery of a media-generated age, his art captures what Marshall McLuhan once referred to as the folklore of industrial man. Adopting an anthropological approach to analyzing imagery in the media, McLuhan ultimately uncovered the links between symbol and icon. What distinguishes our desire from reality is ultimately a matter of consumption of the image rather than discrimination or judgment about what the image represents as content within. And so, when Louis Boudreault presents his portrait images of personalities of the 20th century, it is not simply the image or collective assembling of an image that is significant. Instead it is the way an image is presented that becomes part of the total communication inherent to his art.
Thus, aesthetics traditionally involved a forward-going continuity that embodied history. History relied on a continuum of art and artists in the Neoclassic and Romantic eras, and indeed, this spirit of history was transferred to Modernism. This said, the relativism of today`s aesthetics endorses a reduction of context, and a pseudo-objectivity, as a metaphor for the actual process whereby images come into being, are manufactured. But Louis Boudreault`s portraits are not simply art about anyone or everyone. These 20th century portraits are of famous or perhaps infamous people. They are personages collectively considered to have an historical significance. These subjects` contributions range from science, to the arts, to literature, to technology and they have entered into our collective imagination.
Packaging these personalities is a process, and that process involves the actual waythe images are put together, the way they are affixed, drawn, even compositionally set within the context of the tableaux. Often the portraits are floated on surfaces that are left open at the edges. The surface reveals a virtual and immediate layering, like an artistic geology of sometimes unseen, partially hidden or completely obscured elements. This approach is a significant part of the language of Louis Boudreault`s artmaking practice. It is as if the imagery itself were a form of packaging, that itself is packaged with visual and vernacular content and this is what makes these works wholly contemporary. Somehow the content and the presentation are rendered equal as values. These artworks seize us precisely because they have gone through a process of transferal, of adaptation through media, from personality, to photo, to rendering and artistic interpretation, to presentation as an artwork.
There is a very visual and dynamic interplay between the basic recognizable characters of each of these portraits of famous individuals, even if they are presented as young children, at a point of formation in their lives when personality is in the process of being formed, and the standardized scale and presentation of these works within the series. History exists within an ahistorical context, which itself may not have a hierarchy as it did in the era of Sir Joshua Reynolds, at least not visibly. The historical layerings, like the layers of materials in Boudreault paintings, exist as a series of phenomena, actions the artist has taken to build a mystery, to engender an aura or mystique that occur in parallel or tandem with the actual portrait image. The layerings can be obscured, hidden, buried beneath other layers, just as they are in history. The image, the portrait, thus exist as signs or symbols of convergence within a society whose contexts are abstract, conceived in a non-space, a mediatized bits and bytes, whether informational, ideational or purely visual. And this pure visuality… this is always a predominant element that rises through the layers, the sequences, the contexts, even past the image per se. We can read these paintings thus, as purely visual phenomena, created in a certain early 21st century period of questioning of historicity, where the signals and signs are understood, but the contexts are less readily associated with memory, with place or individual identity. Anomalous, integrated, they resonate with an essential visual experiential dimensionality that is about our understanding of the moment where we, as viewers, interact, exchange visions with the artist. The interface is these portraits themselves, recognizable to many of us, and a common currency to all humanity. It all occurs amid an endlessly shifting landscape of contexts, of images, of architectures of the soul, and we read ourselves within these vast, immeasurable contexts of historicity that Louis Boudreault`s paintings are a tribute to.